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Smaller Schools Show Mixed Results in City Progress Reports

Thursday, October 27, 2011 - 08:11 AM

The city's high school progress reports continue to be scrutinized and dissected, with The Daily News finding that the small high schools created by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg did a better job of graduating students — but a poorer job of preparing them for college.

The 135 new, small schools, on average, "graduate roughly 70 percent of students in four years. But just 12 percent of students who graduate are prepared for college," The News report says.

In contrast, similar schools founded before Mayor Bloomberg assumed office graduate on average 64 percent of students — but 17 percent are college ready.

The city's Department of Education said the increase in graduation rates was no small thing:

"Our new schools have graduated a much broader base of students than schools they replaced, some as the first in their families to attend college," spokesman Matt Mittenthal said.

"But there's no doubt we need to do more to ensure they are college ready."

Michael Mulgrew, president of the teachers' union, the United Federation of Teachers, said the very system was at fault:

"Progress reports, as we said, are really about playing games with numbers and teaching to tests," Mulgrew argues. "Accountability measures are very, very dangerous in terms of what measures you pick."

The News also reports on a crowding problem in the Bronx that is so severe that children are being bused outside the area to "overflow sites."

The area, Westchester Square, was the scene of a major battle about 20 years ago, when parents fought to have a new school built to accommodate the many students. But now that school, Public School/Middle School 194 on Waterbury Avenue, which has almost 1,400 students, is crowded.

Advocates in that earlier battle note the irony:

The school "has turned the area — which was an educational pariah — into a model gem where everyone wants to go," said Sandi Lusk, who began advocating for the school in 1990. It opened in 2003.

"It's so ironic when you consider the fact that ... we have this wonderful gem of a school, which is now threatened with being swamped like the Titanic."

The New York Times reports on a program in 15 city high schools to teach children how to eat healthier.

The lesson plan blends media literacy, politics, nutrition and cooking. Students learn how to evaluate food labels, to prepare nutritious and affordable meals, and to identify the political and economic forces that shape their diet. Some will visit urban farms, food co-ops and a 400-acre farm upstate.

And Richard Pérez-Peña continues to follow the efforts to create a new school applied sciences in the city, noting that Stanford University proposal for a graduate school of science on Roosevelt Island has more than doubled its price tag in two weeks. Officials now estimate it will cost $2.5 billion to build. The article notes:

Stanford is a leading contender in the Bloomberg administration’s competition to create a new school of applied sciences that officials hope will prompt the growth of high-tech business in the city. Stanford’s close relationship with Silicon Valley is the acknowledged model.

And, finally, this has nothing at all to do with education, but we can use a little good news (and fun) on a gloomy Thursday morning. The Daily News went overboard in its use of puns, but here is its account:

A cat who became a paws célèbre after it was lost by American Airlines at Kennedy Airport two months ago has been found.

The kitty, named Jack, was discovered in an airport customs room late Tuesday and is "doing well," the airline said in a statement.

"Oh my God, we're totally thrilled. Totally, totally thrilled," said Mary Beth Melchior, the sister of Jack's owner, Karen Pascoe. "Thrilled doesn't even cover it."

GothamSchools' daily Rise and Shine post has a more complete list of what is in the news about education on Thursday.

Here are some of the education-related events going on in the city on Thursday:

Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott, who on Wednesday night announced initiatives to increase parent involvement, continues to promote the Education Department's Parents as Partners week. On Thursday, which is parent-conference day at high schools, he will visit a school to continue the discussion of how parents can become more involved in their children's schools.

And in Brooklyn, students, parents, educators and others are invited to a Digital Learning Town Hall meeting at 6 p.m. in the community room at Borough Hall, 209 Joralemon Street.

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